Most houses of worship in Colorado, no matter their faith focus, have stopped conducting in-person services owing to the rapidity with which the virus spreads, particularly among large gatherings; many are offering remote teachings instead. But the Messiah Baptist Church website boasts this defiant proclamation: "We are NOT canceling any service due to the covid-19 virus, snow, hail, wind, locust or any other natural or super natural event with the exception of the rapture. If Christ comes to call us home, whoever is left behind can do what they want."
Is this stance legal? Dr. William Ingram, the church's pastor, provided Westword with a statement that he mandated could be "shared ONLY in full and NOT in part! Any quotes MUST be linked back to this document as a whole!" The response (see it in its entirety below) includes this passage: "We have been in contact with Denver Department of Public Health and Environment and have discussed with them what we are doing. As of Sunday, March 29, 2020 they stated to us, 'Confirmed with our Legal that religious groups are still exempted provided distancing strategies used. So you're good to continue although be aware that in person activities increase risk of disease transmission especially for those who are older or immunocompromised.'"
The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment got back to us after the original publication of this story, echoing the response of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Ian Dickson, who confirmed that Ingram is correct. The key language in an explainer on the CDPHE website reads: "Churches and other houses of worship fall under critical services. They can remain open if they follow social distancing requirements but are encouraged to offer remote options for attending services."
public-health order: "To reduce the risk of disease transmission, individuals shall maintain at least a six-foot distance from other individuals, wash hands with soap and water for at least twenty seconds as frequently as possible or using hand sanitizer, cover coughs or sneezes (into the sleeve or elbow, not hands), regularly clean high-touch surfaces, and not shake hands."
Rules for religious institutions differ from state to state, as noted in "Should Churches Meet or Not?," a recent release from Liberty Counsel, which describes itself as "an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics."
The organization points out that "Dr. Rodney Howard-Browne, pastor of The River at Tampa Bay Church, was arrested at his home Monday for holding a church service last Sunday. The church is in Hillsborough County, Florida. The Hillsborough County administrative order includes 43 paragraphs of exemptions, and then contains a catch-all paragraph stating that any commercial business that is not specifically exempted may operate, as long as it complies with the six-foot separate requirement."
Liberty Counsel's conclusion: "People need to think more rationally and critically before they come to a knee-jerk reaction that churches should not meet. This is the United States of America, and we have a First Amendment for a reason. It’s not an either/or — that the church should or should not meet. In America, churches have a constitutional right to meet, and in so doing, they can take precautions to protect people."
This position could come into conflict with public-health concerns should the terrible toll of COVID-19 continue to escalate, as even the White House now expects — particularly if a flare-up can be traced to a particular institution. For now, however, Messiah Baptist Church will continue to hold services up until the Rapture.
Here's Ingram's statement, reproduced exactly from his original, linked copy. The spelling, grammar and use of bolds and italics are entirely his.
Official statement from Pastor William Ingram:This post was updated to reflect a post-publication response from the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment.
I have been asked by several sources for my opinion about Covid-19 and the fact that Messiah Baptist
Church has continued having church services.
First of all, this virus, like many others has the potential to be deadly and people should do their own
research and come to an educated decision as to what they are comfortable with. I thank the Lord for
modern medical science and for the medical world for doing a wonderful job aiding those who are sick
with this virus and the countless other sicknesses we constantly deal with.
We have taken many precautions at Messiah Baptist Church to reduce the chances of this virus and
others spreading within our property, including but not limited to extra cleaning and sanitizing,
implementing of “social distancing” strategies, utilization of closed circuit television, and education of
dangers associated with sicknesses. We have been in contact with Denver Department of Public Health
and Environment and have discussed with them what we are doing. As of Sunday, March 29, 2020 they
stated to us, “Confirmed with our Legal that religious groups are still exempted provided distancing
strategies used. So you're good to continue although be aware that in person activities increase risk of
disease transmission especially for those who are older or immunocompromised.” So we have
confirmed that we are fully within our legal right to remain open in spite of opposition. No one is
require to attend our church, but our doors will remain open to anyone in need. We believe the message
of Hope through Jesus Christ is critically important to keep available to all people.
This virus nor any other sickness shows respect to anyone. Anyone is susceptible to getting sicknesses.
Everyone will not get sick and die from this virus, but one thing is certain, we will all die one day. Even
those who survive this sickness will certainly, without fail die of something. The greatest fear of
mankind is the fear of death. Jesus Christ came to free us from that fear. He came to die for us so that
we can escape the wages of our sin and give us the wonderful gift of eternal life which He paid for
when He died of the cross, was buried, and then rose from the dead the third day. The church can't give
us eternal life, nor can any religion this world offers. It is only found through the gift of God's only
begotten Son, Jesus Christ. The rest of this statement is an article that I have written to further explain
this truth. I believe it is the greatest truth in all the world. The medical world may be able to heal the
sick body, but Jesus is the only one who can heal the sickness of sin in our soul! This truth is why
Messiah Baptist Church has chosen to keep it's doors open to anyone in need. What good is it to die
with food, clothes, medicine, toys, and money and go to an eternal Hell. The church may not be able to
fill all our physical needs, but it is the only institution that can fill the far greater need; the need of
Salvation through Jesus Christ, and that is the most essential need of all mankind.
How To Know For Sure Heaven Will Be Your Home When You Die!
There is much confusion regarding various religions in the world today. I don’t want to discuss “religion” but simply inform you about how, according to the Bible, to know for sure Heaven will be your home when your life on Earth has ended.
The Bible tells us in 1st John 5:13 that it was given to us so that we can know we have eternal life or that we can be saved: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
How can we know this?
First, in order to be saved we need to know what we need to be saved from. The Bible teaches us that everybody is a sinner, or has broken the law of God. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
The Bible says that our “goodness” cannot compare to how good God is. Isaiah 64:6 says, “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” That’s why the Bible says that none of us are righteous. Romans 3:10 says, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.”
“So, I’m a sinner, so what?”
Well, since we know that everyone is a sinner, we also need to know how that affects our eternity. Heaven is perfect, and sin isn’t allowed there — or else it would no longer be perfect. God created a place called Hell for the Devil and his fallen angels, and it’s a place of eternal fire.
Matthew 25:41 says, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” The Bible tells us that we are condemned to go there unless we believe on Jesus Christ. John 3:18 explains, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
You see, because of our sin, we have earned punishment. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Death here is talking about the second death which we know as the lake of fire. We see that in Revelation 20:14 as the Bible says, “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”
Thankfully, that isn’t the end of this pamphlet!
God loves us and doesn’t want anybody to die and go to Hell. The Bible explains in 2nd Peter 3:9 that, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
Jesus wants to give everybody a free gift! Romans 6:23 promises, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” You see, Jesus never sinned; therefore He didn’t have to die. He chose to die in our place. We deserve to die, not Him!
Jesus loved us so much that He wanted to die for us so that we could live with Him in Heaven. Jesus is the only one who can give this gift, because He is the only one that has paid for it. Since Jesus didn’t owe a sin debt — unlike us — He was the only one who could pay for someone else’s. Romans 5:8 explains, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Jesus Christ died and paid the debt that we owed because of our sin. Does that mean we are all going to go to Heaven? No! In order to go to Heaven, one must receive the gift that Jesus is offering. Many people have rejected this gift. I hope you will not be one who rejects Jesus, but gladly receives Him! John 1:11-12 says, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”
Will you accept what Jesus has done for you?
You now have learned that because of our sin, we all deserve to die and spend eternity in the lake of fire called Hell.
Jesus Christ, the son of God, died on the Cross, was buried, and rose again from the dead three days later to pay our penalty or debt of sin. Jesus, having never sinned, died for sinners condemned to death.
However, simply believeing that Jesus did this isn’t enough. The Bible says that the devils believe this, but they aren’t going to Heaven. James 2:19 explains, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.”
You must “believe in thine heart,” to receive and put your complete trust in Jesus and what He did for you. Romans 10:9-11 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”
If you are willing to let Jesus Christ take you just the way you are, save you from the debt of your sin, and give you a home in Heaven with Him when your life on Earth has ended, Jesus is ready to do just that.
God says in Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” “Whosoever” means YOU, my friend! If you will pray and ask Jesus Christ to save you, He will. The following is a simple prayer you can use as an example of trusting Him. The prayer doesn’t save you! It is the meaning from your heart! God knows my heart, and He knows yours.
Dear Jesus, I know I am a sinner; if I died now in my sin, I would go to Hell. Right now, by faith, I am trusting You and receiveing You as my personal Saviour and my only hope for Heaven. Please save me, and take me to Heaven one day. Thank You for dying on the Cross for me and for saving me from an eternity in Hell. I love You! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
If you said this prayer and really meant it, God says you are guaranteed a home in Heaven. John 3:15 says, “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 6:37 says, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”
Please contact us so we can rejoice with you. I would also like to give you a book containing a Bible
study course along with a free copy of the New Testament of the Bible.
Other Bible passages to help you: John 6:35, Hebrews 10:25, Hebrews 13:5, Acts 2:41, and Acts
“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” — 2nd Peter 3:18